New York is not New York for nothing. While Washington has its small arts festivals like the one held last week, The City is gearing up for next summer's month-long First New York International Festival of the Arts, and it should be a blockbuster.
Ultimately it will add up to 350 events from 20 nations in 40 performing arts spaces. Advisers to the festival include Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ingmar Bergman, Leonard Bernstein, Federico Fellini, Meredith Monk, Jerome Robbins and Jason Robards. And that's only the short list.
Already on board for the festival from June 11 to July 11 are 40 artistic "firsts" in dance, music, opera, theater and film, to take place all over the city. Among those performances: Placido Domingo singing 20th-century arias and songs in Central Park; the world premiere of "John Henry," a specially commissioned ballet performed by the Dance Theatre of Harlem and choreographed by Arthur Mitchell; the American premiere of a new work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich; and comedian Robert Klein's show, "A 20th-Century Phenomenon: The Stand-Up Comedian." Other ballets, music and theater performances will also focus on works of the 20th century.
If Washingtonians don't have a bad case of New York arts envy yet, listen to New York Mayor Ed Koch: "New York City is the cultural capital of the world and people expect nothing less of us." Ouch.
Theater as Art
The Studio Theatre has carved its new digs on 14th Street NW out of a car repair shop. One interesting artistic touch, thought up by Associate Artistic Director Russell Metheny, runs through the new design -- the spattered paint look. While it seems as if you might have been able to do it yourself by accident, this deliberate mishap looks great. Metheny has spattered paint on the floor of the new lobby, on the aisle runners and even on all the file cabinets in the main administrative office. "It's a lot harder to do than it looks," says Studio head Joy Zinoman.
Essex Hemphill and Wayson Jones are clearly a pair of explosive performance artists, as witnessed by their stand against censorship of the word "corruption" in their poem, "Family Jewels," a month ago at the Mayor's Arts Awards. But with the addition of artist and filmmaker Michelle Parkerson at their recent d.c. space gig and at the rescheduled ADD Arts festival last week, Hemphill and Jones went atomic. From the trio's energetic rap against all things Reagan to a pondering on South Africa, their comments got applause and hoots from the like-minded audiences. This winter they'll be playing in the area and also heading out, says Hemphill, to gigs in Philadelphia and New York.
A haunting photography show on the homeless by Stephenie Hollyman recently left the Senate Rotunda in the Russell Senate Office Building. The story was all in the sad faces of "We the Homeless: Portraits of America's Displaced People." For those who missed it, a 280-page illustrated book with an introduction by homeless crusader Robert Hayes is available this winter from the Philosophical Library Press.
The Washington Project for the Arts is hosting critic-in-residence Margo Machida through Friday. Machida, an artist and independent curator, is spending two weeks visiting studios and attending performances of minority artists in the area.
Also in the Washington Project for the Arts' continuing series "War and Memory: In the Aftermath of Vietnam," four rockers (Joe Ely, Terry Allen, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Gilmore) sing about the Vietnam war Friday at 8 p.m. at Baird Auditorium. Saturday at 7:30 p.m., they'll talk at WPA's seminar, "The Rock and Roll War: The Role of Music in Vietnam."
And if you're tired of hearing about British royals' roiling love lives, get back to what really counts: the priceless baubles. At 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Hirshhorn, Leslie Field, former fashion editor of the London Sunday Times and author of the new book "The Queen's Jewels," will talk about the gems of Queen Liz II. And what gems they are: the pearls of Mary, Queen of Scots (before the head came off), and the 3,000-plus-carat Cullinan Diamond.